Literacy, Literature, and Pedagogy in Two Nineteenth-Century Alabama Normal Schools
Type of Degreedissertation
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Six of Alabama’s eleven state universities began as normal schools during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Florence State Normal School and Tuskegee Normal and Industrial School created empowerment for individual students and teachers, many from families who had no previous access to education. However, these normal schools also reinforced gender, racial, and class hierarchies. This dissertation argues for research into late nineteenth-century Alabama normal schools and provides possible theoretical approaches from archival methods, literacy studies, feminist historiography, and cultural studies. Archival evidence includes examples of student writing, school catalogs, student publications, and advertising for teacher-training institutes and reveals articulations between national, regional, and state structures of culture and power arising from literacy education. The dissertation includes an analysis of a class prophecy written by a young woman from the Class of 1890 at Florence, a study of the rhetoric of normal school pedagogy and the figure of the pedagogue, and a reading of texts listed as subjects of study and pleasure in the unpublished Minutes of the Tuskegee Woman’s Club. While it is not possible to draw direct analogies to relate to contemporary literacy issues and challenges, understanding the emergence and disappearance of the normal schools provides insight into the ideological uses of the literacies claimed by schooling.